Using Your Immune System to Stay Well
Experts explain how you can tap the power of your immune system to avoid getting sick.
Fending Off Illnesses continued...
This, he says, not only affects your ability to fend off common illnesses
like colds, the flu, or a stomach virus, but it can also play a role in
protecting you against catastrophic diseases like cancer or even heart
Additionally, we also have a second protective response known as the
"cell-mediated immune system." This immunity involves immune system cells,
rather than proteins, which are "helper" or "killer" cells. The cells help our
body create memory of past defense against disease protection.
"Your body recognizes that pathogen again, and immediately calls up the
memory of the previous infection and sets out to destroy the invader before the
disease develops," says neurophysiologist Carl J. Charnetski, PhD. Charnetski
is a professor of psychology at Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., and
co-author of Feeling Good Is Good For You: How Pleasure Can Boost Your
Immune System and Lengthen Your Life."
This mechanism is also the biologic behind vaccines for illnesses such as
measles, chicken pox, or hepatitis.
"The concept of inoculating us against diseases is based on deliberately
introducing a harmless amount of a pathogen so that our [immune] cells can
react, learn, and remember how to produce antibodies enough to fight it," says
According to the CDC, the recommended vaccines for children and adolescents
include hepatitis A and B, diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis, measles, mumps,
rubella, varicella, polio, pneumococcus, and Haemophilus influenza type B --
The CDC says seniors need vaccines against pneumococcus and the flu, as do
all adults who may be immunocompromised by diseases such as HIV or cancer.
Everyone needs to update their tetanus vaccine once every 10 years, while those
who work in high-risk jobs (like hospital workers) need vaccines for hepatitis
A and B. The CDC recommends all children age 11-18 get a vaccine for
meningitis. It is also recommended for people at elevated risk of getting the
disease, such as travelers to countries with high rates of meningococcal
What Affects Immunity
Much like soldiers who grow weary in battle, your immune cells can also lose
some of their protective effects when your body is constantly battling
poor health habits. As such, it's not surprising that doctors frequently
recommend certain lifestyle changes as a way to optimize the function of your